When is equality?

I don’t really understand how racial equality activists measure their results. (I’ve met some who seem like they’d at least be interested in measuring them.) The most obvious way is to use statistics, but then you run into the problem of “Whose statistics?” And “What do those statistics control for?” Am I missing something?


This is what I’m missing by not having a Twitter account

I wound up reading a post on Twitter.com by looking at my brother’s Twitter page and clicking on a twittering he replied to, and then clicking on the twittering that twitterer was replying to.

At first I didn’t get it. So what? The House prioritizes all kinds of things over other things. That’s kind of a key part of their job. Then I realized there was an invisible “Isn’t that crazy?!?! What monsters!!!” at the end of the headline, that would have been clear to me had I been part of the intended audience.

And then I read the replies, and met some representatives from that audience. Below is just a sampling:

Not much else to say about this.

I do wonder if these people genuinely feel this way, or if Twittering is just catharsis for them. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine that none of these people have a single friend or loved one who is anti-abortion or Republican. On the other hand, bubbles can be pretty thick.

Something that doesn’t make sense to me, though, is how people can go online and, using their real names, write this kind of stuff where anyone can see it? (Employers, family members, kids, etc.) This wasn’t in some dark hidden corner of Twitter, it was a single click from the page of some D-list actor’s Twitter feed that my brother subscribes to.

Do they not care? Do they have some good reason not to fear consequences? Or are they oblivious to the tone and messages in their own writing? Has Twitter.com made it easier to be oblivious?

(P.S. Yes, all the Twitterings and the hashtags that used “white” as a put-down were written by…white people.)

Trump-bashing is boring, so why are people still doing it?

I don’t understand people who are still vocally anti-Trump. It’s been passé for 2 full years at this point, yet it remains bizarrely popular to go out of your way to bash Trump, point out his flaws, etc. Don’t the people who do that get bored with themselves?

If a skunk sprays a dog just outside your window, you don’t sit there sniffing furiously and complaining for two years. You close the window.

Exploring diversity preferences, part ii

Continued from Part I.

The polite, mainstream view of diversity is that it’s of course very good and valuable. A majority of people seem to either hold this view or are too intimidated to admit they disagree. Why, then, don’t very many people…

  • …racially intermarry?
  • …have a diverse mix of friends?
  • …go to work in highly diverse fields?
  • …live in very diverse neighborhoods?

Here are what I would summarize as the stated and revealed diversity preferences of most people, across five dimensions of diversity.

Diversity type: Racial
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

If you say, in mixed company, that you don’t care that much about your neighborhood or company being predominantly white, you might hear audible gasps. Yet, your neighborhood and company are both things you thoughtfully chose. If they are predominantly white, then clearly racial diversity is not that important to you. You’re just not supposed to say it out loud.

Diversity type: Gender
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

If you say, in mixed company, that you don’t care that much about your profession or the list of Oscar-winning directors being predominantly male, you might hear audible gasps. Yet it’s unlikely that you or anyone else in the room boycotted your industry or refused to go see movies because of this disparity.

Diversity type: Sexuality
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: strong*

This is one where people seem pretty consistent. Those who are vocal supporters of gay rights and the inclusion of non-straight viewpoints probably do tend to have more gay friends and coworkers. But there’s an asterisk there because there just aren’t that many gay people to begin with, so most “allies” are simply likely to wind up with not many gay people in their lives.

Diversity type: Socioeconomic
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

It’s fashionable to say you care about the poor, about allowing poor people opportunities to live in middle-class or wealthy areas, and so on. But then when your kids are school-age, all of a sudden they’re in private schools or you’re moving to a new school district. That’s just one example illustrating this pattern, which I see as widespread. Even poor people do their best to move away from other poor people, while complaining that the new places they move to don’t have the same culture as the places they left.

Diversity type: Ideological
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: weak

Ideological diversity receives little attention (except from Jonathan Haidt) and as a result there are few if any serious efforts to increase it.

Pro-diversity signaling seems to be a kind of marker that Nice White People wave around to show others how conscientious and with-it they are. It’s like driving a Prius to show how much you care about the environment: it actually does nothing for the environment, and the few important ways you could be helping the environment go unnoticed.

The misalignment between stated and revealed preferences, at least where there is a stated preference FOR something when the revealed preference is NOT FOR it, is a symptom of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is frustrating. It’s even frustrating to be frustrated about hypocrisy, because it’s never a surprise.

More on tattoos

I feel like I’m probably one of the last people willing to outright condemn tattoos and say it’s bad to get them.

As I said in my other post on tattoos, I have no grounds on which to judge the people who get tattoos. There are people I love and respect who have tattoos, and I can’t honestly say their tattoos have made me love or respect them perceptibly less. I recognize that I am a relic of the very last flickerings of a strange and brief moment in history when (some) humans abandoned tattoos and most other types of body modification.

One of the most common justifications I’ve heard for tattoos is that the body is a blank canvas. For the longest time I just didn’t see what the point of that statement was, but now I understand it to be not just an empty and confusing statement, but a wrong one.

To see the body as a blank canvas is to miss the intricate masterwork that is obviously there already. I don’t medicalize lightly, but seeing the body as a blank canvas is indicative of some kind of body-dismorphic-disorder-meets-some-kind-of-blindness…body appreciation blindness?

It’s fascinating that whatever this disorder/blindness is, it seems learnable. Is there such a thing as cultural epidemiologists? If so, they should study this.

Exploring diversity preferences, part i

Sometimes I find it frustrating when people talk about how important diversity is but then they go live very non-diverse lives: they marry people who look and think like them, they move to neighborhoods where everyone looks and thinks like them, they get jobs in industries where everyone looks and thinks like them, etc. It’s always someone else’s job to provide the diversity they go on and on about. My wife summed it up well. Clearly there is a split between what economists would call people’s stated and revealed diversity preferences.

Digging deeper into my thoughts, I realized “diversity” can be said to have many possible dimensions. Most commonly, when people say diversity they are talking about racial diversity (a mix of people of different races). In organizational, recreational, or social settings they might also be referring to gender diversity (a mix of men and women). Those who are a bit more savvy as culture warriors might include sexuality diversity (a mix of people who are straight, gay, bisexual, etc.). Occasionally you can hear calls for socioeconomic diversity (a mix of people from lower, middle, and upper classes and/or the cultures associated with those classes) and on very rare occasions, calls for intellectual diversity (a mix of people of different ideologies and belief systems)–this last one disproportionately coming from Jonathan Haidt.

(Religious diversity is sometimes called for as its own dimension, but it is often confused with racial diversity–e.g. “Muslims” used for “Arabs”–and properly fits within intellectual diversity anyway. Outside of maybe Ireland, nobody cares much about white Catholics and Protestants getting along anymore.)

Next I decided to examine my own stated and revealed diversity preferences.

Diversity type: Racial
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: strong

I have trouble getting worked up over complaints that countries, neighborhoods, companies, or schools are “too white.” Same would go for “too Japanese” or “too Nigerian.”

Yet I’m in an interracial marriage and several of my closest friends are black. Before I got married and since about my sophomore year of high school, I dated black girls almost exclusively. And what’s more, on a meta level this diversity is an aspect of my life I enjoy and appreciate.

Diversity type: Gender
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: weak

While I might be a feminist in some sense, I just don’t care that much about how many women work in tech, how many women are CEOs, how many female broadcasters get their own shows on CNN, and so on.

Nor do I have many female friends. Discounting family, the only women I’d say I’m close to are a couple former coworkers and my best friend’s wife. Compare that to dozens of male friends, at least half of whom I’m equally close to. And I’m fine with that.

Diversity type: Sexuality
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: weak

I have no problem working and socializing with gay people, but I don’t long for them if they’re not there. And, unfortunately I suppose, they have not endeared me to their political causes–quite the opposite. (“Unfortunately” because I really do think their causes such as gay marriage etc. are generally well-intentioned.)

I had a number of very close friends in high school and college who were gay, but my only remaining of those friends has become more of a friend of a friend. I have not acquired any new gay friends since then. I’m not sure why; one theory could be that when you’re married and have kids you just wind up in different circles from most gay people even if you otherwise share similar interests. Apparently I don’t care enough to change that.

Diversity type: Socioeconomic
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: strong

This one is interesting since in theory, when I think about where I’d want to live or work, I’d say I prefer to be surrounded by people who are approximately in the same or slightly higher socioeconomic class as me. (That is, people who read nonfiction, actively listen to classical music, don’t pay much attention to sports, have 401Ks, eat raw vegetables, etc.)

But I find myself with friends who smoke, earn way less money than me, have southern accents, and/or never finished college. I value those friendships and the perspectives and groundedness they provide for me as well. Knowing I was moving closer to several such friends recently was very comforting to me.

Diversity type: Ideological
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: strong

This is the one type of diversity I care about enough to evangelize. And sure enough my own world is full of this kind of diversity, as I can think of names of close friends from several religions and a quite full range of political orientations.

In a follow-up post, I’ll give my impressions on the stated and revealed preferences of the polite/”mainstream” culture around me. I’ll look for patterns in those preferences and compare them to my own, and then try and figure out what makes this topic so frustrating for me.

Am I a feminist?

I don’t normally think of myself as a feminist but I must be one in the larger scheme of things. Here are a few of my feminist “credentials,” as such:

  • I am unhappy with the notion of women being treated unfairly or unkindly just for being women.
  • I admire and am genuinely impressed with many of the women I have worked with or for.
  • I believe that a woman can be as good as a man at basically any job (with the understanding that there will be statistical divergences).
  • I happily support and perpetuate my daughter’s apparent interest in “unladylike” things such as cars/trucks, bugs, dirt, worms, and laughing at farts.
  • I don’t think it should be illegal or even an undue hassle for women to vote, drive, own property, run businesses, etc.

So what differentiates me from feminists? Why don’t I think of myself as one?

I think the overarching answer may be that unlike most feminists, I am either comfortable with or encouraging of human sexual dimorphism in all its forms; no active push against sexual dimorphism exists as part of my thought process, or at least I can’t recall any.

Some of it boils down to taste, of course. For instance our society exaggerates some forms of sexual dimorphism, such as with the convention that women wear relatively long hair on their heads but shave off their leg- and armpit-hair–and I am supportive of this; I would not rally for this to be overturned.

There might be subconscious biological underpinnings here: body hair retains scent-producing bacteria very well, and strong scents are used by many animals–perhaps including humans for most of our evolutionary history?–as markers of dominance or territorial ownership, so by shaving their body hair women remove a path to dominance and territorial ownership, which would benefit me as a man…but that’s highly speculative. Had I grown up in a society where women wore their hair short and didn’t shave, I doubt I’d object.

Some of the difference between me and feminists boils down to our viewpoints too though. I don’t see an inherent problem, for example, with women being underrepresented or overrepresented in various fields, or tending to perform better or worse on standardized tests, or things like that. To me these are just instantiations of sexual dimorphism. I am OK with them, while feminists actively oppose them.

Contrary to many feminists, I also think sexual dimorphism explains a lot of the obstacles many women face (and blame on men). For example, women claim they are often talked over or assumed less competent by men at work. There are certainly some misogynistic men out there, but I feel confident the vast majority of these cases simply fall into the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” problem where men and women are accustomed to interacting in different ways that don’t always translate well when their roles are interposed. We should be aware of our behavior and thoughts and try and correct for that in a work environment, but I don’t see it as a Huge Moral Atrocity That Needs A Policy Solution  Right Now.

Some aspects of feminism, as with identitarianism in general, seem to me like a monomania in which little molehill inequalities are constantly discovered and made into mountainous issues backed by conspiracy theories. For instance, men sometimes separate their legs when seated. Maybe there are physical reasons, maybe it’s acculturated, but it doesn’t matter because This Is Man-Spreading! The Patriarchy even wants power and influence over space on subway seats and park benches!

For one thing, stuff like that often betrays bad faith and an eagerness to fight rather than merely correct wrongs. But for another thing it’s a kind of autistic obsession in which the nuances of life are considered intolerable. I believe the world can accommodate a few double-standards. Some double-standards benefit me, others do not, but unless I specifically know where they came from and am confident that they serve no useful purpose (I seldom have this confidence or understand where one might get it) I tend to see them as Chesterton Fences.

There are other aspects of feminism that definitely repel me. Not every feminist does this, but there is a contingent who is quick to blame everything they dislike on men, or everything they dislike a man doing on the fact that he is a man, complete with made-up pathologies and strawman reasoning. I have even seen them get offended at men who don’t join in with them while they do this.

 How could I be expected to get down with that?